Wednesday, January 27, 2010

The Case for Clean Water

It's been almost a week since I've been home, but I'm still recovering. Turns out I brought a nasty little parasite home from the orphanage. I've been to the doctor three times and purchased about $100 in medicines to cure all of the havoc the little pest has wreaked.

But the sad reality is that I got to come home and get better and the children are still there. These kids are not immune to such illnesses. In fact, the children are dying because of sickness in their bellies or from malaria.

In the month of December, three children died before Christmas. As a result, the orphanage scrounged funds together to pay for a young man, right out of nursing school, to come and live with them so that he could monitor the children every day.

And so every day, there is a line-up at his desk as he dishes out medications. No more children have died. But three babies were admitted to a nearby hospital while I was there.

The reason appears to be a lack of clean water. There is no running water or electricity at the orphanage. Instead, they fill buckets of jerry cans with mucky water from a nearby river. Or they catch the rain in tanks.

For two years, Unicef has been telling them they will help them dig clean water wells. But, it hasn't happened yet.

I know the orphanage is working hard to bring running water to the new homes. But, it's a matter of money -- always a matter of money.

Hard reality to face when I'm standing at my kitchen sink....I think it just strengthens to continue raising funds and doing what little I can to help them.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Introducing some of the children by photos

I'm finally able to upload some photos, so you can see some of the cuties your donations have helped.


Hi - I wanted to introduce you to NOTDEC UK - This registered charity is specifically raising funds for the Nzirambi Orphan Talent Development Centre in Uganda. It started with a group of church members raising money and has grown from there. NOTDEC has recruited a sponsor for each child at the orphanage, ensuring that food, school and medicine fees can be covered.
It's because of their generosity that the children have the new homes to live in, as NOTDEC raised funds for and helped build the new houses.

Monday, January 18, 2010

the feast, right to play

Great day yesterday, the House Mothers at the orphanage dressed in their fine African dresses, lots of food for the children to eat - overall a great celebration to mark the "official opening" of the orphanage. A special day considering just a few months ago all of the kids were crammed into one house -- and that the very first orphans lived with Aunt Dorothy in a grass-thatched home.
A church group from the UK has sponsored the children and paid for the construction of four new buildings for them. The homes are great - except there is no electricity and running water -- an issue that desperately needs to be sorted out. (They are working on it....)
Some of the children are falling ill, likely because of it. To help this, a nursing student has been hired (for a small fee) to live at the home and check on the children daily.
It's obvious the home has come so far - but the need is still great in so many ways.
One thing I'm eager to inquire about is whether Right to Play is interested to sponsor toys for the children (as there are virtually none). Anyone have any contacts there?
I'm also going to check with Bikes without Borders about getting more bicycles or parts for repair!

Saturday, January 16, 2010

the orphanage

I have finally arrived! I've been here for four days - and to say that my first day here was overwhelming would be an understatement. I'll write some more, shorter blogs soon. Right now, internet is a scarcity - actually, there are barely computers here and even many of the older children still do not even have an email address.

Tomorrow is the "official" opening of the orphanage - in fact, it has been going on for more than 20 years, but generous donations from a group called NOTDEC in the UK have raised funding to build the fancy new houses you see in the picture below. For the event, I was able to help write a speech to be read by the chairman. I thought I'd post it because it gives you the history of this orphanage, and Dorothy, the real hero behind the orphanage. In my following blogs, I'll tell you how our donations are being used, introduce you to some of the children - and tell you where the need still lies.

One child here is only a few weeks old. He was found left in a pile of garbage on Christmas Day. He has survived and seems to be doing well now. Each of the children here has their own story - I can't wait to share it with you.

The Speech:
This orphanage is the calling of Dorothy Nzirambi.

Dorothy took her first child in more than 20 years ago while she was still living in a grass-thatched house. She has always been a natural care-giver.

When she was 15, Dorothy, who dropped out of school because she could not afford school fees, was given the responsibility of caring for the two children of her elder siblings.

She raised four children on her own after her husband was killed in 1978 during the regime of Idi Amin. She took work at the Kagando hospital where she witnessed the death of many mothers in the labour room – this is a problem that continues and is the reason most of our children are with us today.

It was in 1984 that Dorothy had a vision to read the Book of James, Chapter One, Verse 27, which says: “Pure and lasting religion in the sight of God, our father, means that we must care for orphans and widows in their troubles and refuse to let the world corrupt us.”

The very next day, she visited the maternity ward at Kagando Hospital. She learned that two men had taken home a two day old baby after the mother had died. There were concerns, the child would die in their care. Outside, Dorothy found the two men and the baby, all of them crying. The men told her they wished the child had died.

Dorothy knew this was the message she was meant to receive. She took the child to her home and prayed t God: “Here is the child I have nothing to give. Bring mana from heaven as you fed the Israelites in the desert for this baby.” The baby was fed that night with a cup of breast milk collected from new mothers at the hospital.

Word spread that Dorothy was taking in children and this is the humble beginnings of the orphanage.

In 1989, Dorothy met Dr. Hodges, who eventually adopted one of the children, Rachel Hodges. By this time, Dorothy was caring for 15 children, still in the grass-thatched home. Then in 1996, she met a Swiss woman, Eleanore Wismer, who decided to finance a new house for the children. In 1998, Dorothy finally left the grass-thatched home and moved to a brick house in Kasinga. By this time, Dorothy’s sister, Milly, also began working with the orphanage.

A few years later, friends of Dr. Hodges, Janet and Antony Johnston visited the orphanage and were inspired to mobilize their church to raise funds. The Kasinga house was becoming too small and so it was decided that new homes were needed. It is because of the generosity of our partners in the UK that we were able to buy the land that you see here – 30 acres. With expertise in construction, John Leftley, and his wife, Carlee, came from the UK to help build the four houses.

St. Paul’s Church has also created a program so that all of the 70 children here has a sponsor who helps pay for education, day-to-day expenses and medicine.

These four houses were built over nine months. The plan is to have another four houses built here to accommodate the growing number of children. The remaining land we will use for growing food.
etc, etc...

Tuesday, January 12, 2010


I'm in Uganda now -- we did a very quick trip to Bwindi National Park to see the mountain gorillas. We had to trek up a mountainous hill, but thankfully there was a porter behind me to help push my rump up the slope:)

We found three gorillas in the trees, one silverback, two young ones.

At one point the silverback came down from the tree and came about six steps behind me - then he plopped himself down and watched us watching him. It was incredible! The photos are amazing, but I can't post any yet!

I've been reading Gorillas in the Mist and feel so grateful to Dian Fossey - all of the things she did -- learn how to track gorillas, make them comfortable around humans and promote tourism and conservation is exactly what is being done now.

Anyone up for a Gorillas in the Mist movie date when I get back??

Monica's brother, Morris, is coming to pick me up in Kampala tomorrow and then we make the 6 hour trip to the village of Kasese where the orphanage is.

Can't wait to send you updates!

Friday, January 8, 2010

Nairobi Nursery - for elephants

In Nairobi now, getting ready to head to Uganda for gorilla trekking and then on to the orphanage.

Yesterday, I visited the David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust elephant sanctuary. They've rescued about 80 elephants and I had the chance to see bout 15 of them, ranging in age from just a few months to a few years.

The elephants are so awkward on their feet - clumsy. They kept falling over, some could barely get back up.

Most of the elephants are victims of poaching - either they have been injured in snares or orphaned when their mothers were killed. As babies, they are so delicate and the keepers stay with them 24 hours a day to help them grow. They are fed with oversized bottles of baby formula.

When they are old enough they are released into the wild - the elephants decide for themselves when they want to go - and often come back to visit the nursery.

More info can be found here: It's definitely worth a quick peek!

Say NO to ivory.

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

The Serengeti

I created this blog to update from the orphanage - but I just returned from a 3 days bush camping trip in the Serengeti, and it's too incredible not to write about, so here goes:

I’m not sure anyone has proper words to describe the Serengeti (perhaps other than Ernest Hemingway). It’s magical. Surreal. You’re driving along and it feels like you are in a live National Geographic documentary.

The plains are flat, endless and at this time of the year, they are green. The occasional acacia tree dots the landscape. The sky feels unusually low, leaving the mirage of such a short distance between the land and the clouds.

With a group of five others, we drove through in a Land Rover with the roof popped open so that we could stand on our seats for a clear view. Before we even reached the Serengeti boundaries, the landscape was overwhelmed with wildebeest and zebra.

Every year, the wildebeest – 1.5 million of them – migrate in search of food and water as the seasons change in East Africa. I was blessed with the chance to see part of the migration, which I first saw many years ago in an IMAX film.

The animals had just finished the migration from the north to greener pastures in the south. It is truly one of the most incredible things I have seen. Thousands and thousands of these ugly browns animals dotted the plains for as far as your eyes could see.

Zebra and antelope migrate as well, but in smaller numbers. The zebra are simply magical. Their black and white stripes are a stark contrast to the rest of the Serengeti’s beasts.

I was also fortunate to be there at the time of year when zebra give birth. I saw many young zebra – still shaky on their already long legs – suckling their mothers. I spotted one mother licking her babe’s coat, cleaning it.

I saw other babies too: baby lion cubs laying with a lioness, two baby warthogs chasing after their parents with fast but stumpy legs, even a baby rhino.
But, the most fun to watch were the baby baboons. Three of them with a group of adults, playing, chasing each other, rolling in the grass.

I was also lucky to see two young lions laying on the side of the dirt road used by safari vehicles. We were so close that the lens on our camera could pick up distinct details in their paws and fur. They looked like they were cuddling, spooning. So lazy in the heat and probably full from their nightly hunt. And – oddly enough – so disinterested in our jeep full of tourists gawking at them. They knew they were there, looking up at us occasionally.

I could go on and on…but “TIA” This is Africa, and the odds of me losing power and losing this note are not in my favour.

Internet too slow. Photos to come!

As a side note – if anyone has any tidbits, facts or recommendations on where to get good info on the Masai tribe, please leave some comments here.
Only a short time now until I reach the orphanage – feeling happy, healthy and really looking forward to it.